How can beauty brands use Chinese social media to market in China?

In terms of both revenue value and consumption, China is the world’s second-biggest beauty market, exceeded by only the USA in strength – and positioning itself to become the world’s no.1! The Chinese market is growing incredibly fast, driven by the demands of professional, sophisticated consumers who have high levels of disposable income and a strong desire to look their best.

High-end, premium brands are particularly in demand, which spells good news for luxury Western brands. However, quirky newer brands also have a superb opportunity to grab a slice of this lucrative market, which continues to be driven by factors such as urbanisation and social media influence – not to mention China’s cutting-edge digital commerce environment which facilitates international sales at every turn.

Using social media to grow your beauty brand

Social media is one of China’s most powerful marketing mediums, and these sophisticated netizens enjoy an eco-system of social media platforms that even exceeds equivalent social networking sites in the West. Whereas we focus perhaps on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for B2C markets at home, Chinese audiences are busy consuming rich, engaging, cutting-edge branded content across a multitude of platforms that go far beyond the well-known WeChat, DouYin (Chinese version of TikTok).

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the practical steps that Western brands can take to grow their brand in China.

1. Know the trends

The beauty market is always changing, and Chinese customers want to be well ahead of the curve when it comes to following fashion. Key trends in China’s beauty market at the moment include environmentally-friendly and sustainable packaging, ‘natural’ and organic products, traditional Chinese ingredients and time-saving products. Men’s beauty and wellness categories are also growing extremely fast, with Chinese men now keen to look their best and to maximise their appearance. It’s important to carry out your research and to know how your products will sit with Chinese customers – and which groups.

2. Maximise your platforms

WeChat and Weibo are the obvious platforms for building your brand, but other platforms such as Little Red Book should also be used and optimised. Remember that you can – and should – use these platforms in a number of rich and engaging ways to provide that holistic, authentic experience to potential customers. In WeChat, for example, you can connect with your customers in a personal way by offering exclusive content and deals for subscribers, product samples, competitions, loyalty programmes and invites to live events. Many brands also develop their own WeChat mini-sites to host fashion quizzes and to share makeup tutorials.

Meanwhile, in Weibo, you can build your brand’s reputation and visibility through an official channel, by collaborating with influencers and through creating targeted advertising campaigns. Weibo tends to be preferred by influencers for its micro-blogging and live streaming functionalities, and for Western brands it’s important to know that the platform is partly owned by Alibaba, making it ideal for eCommerce integration.

DouYin (Chinese version of TikTok) – now increasingly well-known in the West – and Little Red Book are also ideal platforms for sharing branded tutorials, tips and other beauty content to grow your brand with your target audience. Little Red Book is particularly becoming a social commerce hub for the beauty industry. A Chinese marketing agency can help you to identify the right platforms for your brand and then to grow them by leveraging the right social strategies for maximum results.

3. Use the right beauty KOLs

For brand awareness and lead generation, the right KOL will be a superb investment for your brand growth in China. The biggest will charge huge fees for sponsorship arrangements, but there are many other KOLs who have large, successful and niche audiences – and the ability to promote your brand to them. Again, a Chinese marketing agency can help you to broker the best possible KOL relationship and to nurture it for excellent results.

4. Optimise your e-commerce

Cross-border e-commerce allows you to access the Chinese customers who want to experience your Western brand, with discounts, product samples, competitions and loyalty schemes all being great ways to engage this audience. But you must also make sure that your eCommerce experience is slick, seamless and integrated with your social channels. You may want to have an eCommerce presence on Tmall, and Jumei, for example, as well as your own website.

5. Integrate your strategy

Many beauty brands have a successful omnichannel strategy whereby they have a carefully curated and highly active presence across various Chinese, social media platforms, with a series of beauty KOLs and regular live-streaming events to show the authenticity, quality and personalisation of their products. If you are a small Western brand, by all means, start small, but be prepared to grow and to invest in your digital marketing to ensure your brand becomes visible to as many relevant Chinese customers as possible. This is especially important if you want to maintain a healthy slice of this rapidly-growing beauty market! Investment now will help you to build a strong, recognisable and reputable brand and to stand out as the market grows around you.

A case study in success

Sephora is already one of the world’s leading retailers in luxury beauty and it has used expert strategies to build its following in China. In April it trialled a new Virtual Sephora Day, launching its list of global beauty trends for summer 2020 and winning millions of views in the process. The brand used a WeChat Mini Program, and Tmall to live-stream its exclusive content, where it presented over 100 products only available within its online store, curated from 43 global brands including its own private-label Sephora Collection, which has become a cult classic amongst sophisticated young Chinese beauty fans. The brand’s Beauty Master Team live-streamed its event with expert beauty editors from leading fashion magazines and respected beauty influencers to discuss six of the primary global beauty trends, providing their own interpretation and insights in the process.

By combining advice, leadership, guidance and expert insights into a highly engaging, exciting and inspiring digital content exclusive, the brand was able to further cement its position as a leading beauty authority and first-choice beauty retailer.

Find out more

Market Me China is here to help your beauty brand to build its presence in China. We can assist with all elements of your digital marketing strategies, providing everything from research and consultancy through to digital marketing service delivery and post-campaign analytics to evidence success. We can also work remotely as required to support social distancing requirements. Please contact us in the first instance for a no-obligation chat about your needs; we will be delighted to assist you as you build your beauty brand in the exciting, rapidly growing and lucrative China market!